HELL

By REV. EDWARD BOKERSTETH,
Matthew xxv. 4L
Then shall he tay to them on the lefl hand. Depart from me, ye cursed,
into
everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his an{;;els.
Could I, my Christian friends, in faithfulness to your souls, have
passed bj, in the course of this ministry, the subject of the pres-
ent sermon, I should have rejoiced to omit it. Bui to sound an
alarm, to utter the warning voice, to give notice of coming danger,
is an essential part of ministerial fidelity and love. Did we see
men in general, overwhelmed with the terrors of everlasting ruin,
distressed with anxious apprehension, and sinking into despon-
dency under the dread of hell, we might forbear to dwell upon a
subject, in such a case uninviting and unsuitable; then it would
be our more agreeable office to proclaim the riches and greatness
of the salvation provided in Jesus for those ready to perish. But
when we see men, almost without exception, dreading nothing less
than the future punishment, wholly secure and unconcerned,
regardless and careless of the miseries that are coming upon them;
then how guilty must the minister be who warns not the wicked,
who shuns to declare the council of God; that ^^ upon the wicked,
God shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest,
this shall be the portion of their cup.''
It is not in the language of severe and hard denunciation, that
I desire to bring so fearful a subject before you, but in that of
the tenderest compassion and earnest desire to promote your salva-
tion. I am a poor sinner, even as you; I, by nature, am " a child
of wrath" as you; if 1 hope to escape, it is only by sovereign
H£LL» 55
grace and mercy in Christ Jesus, and bj daily flying to that Saviour
who has delivered us from the wrath to come; and, having myself
hope in him, can I but long to see you safe in this refuge? ^^ Know-
ing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men."
" The wicked go away into everlasting punishments^ — The pun-
ishment of which we now speak, is the punishment to be inflicted
on the wicked after the day of judgment. And in order to have
distinct views, remember there is, to the righteous dying in the
Lord, a double state of blessedness, a paradise before the judg-
ment day, as well as the glory of heaven after the judgment day.
There is also to the wicked dying in sin, a double state of misery,
a hell before the day of judgment, and after that judgment, the
lake of fire and brimstone, in which the wicked are tormented for
ever and ever. It is said, by Job, " The wicked is reserved to
the day of destruction, they shall be brought forth to the day of
wrath." And, Peter declares: "The Lord knoweth how ..to
reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished."
They are now in the prison of hell, where the rich man was cast
on his death, and they arc there with the fallen angels, "deliv-
ered into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment."
What that judgment is, we have now to consider. I will point
out,
L The Judge who sentences them — 2. The loss of good — 3. The
suffering of woe — 4. T/ie accursed society — 5. The perpetual punishr
ment.
I. The Judge who sentences them.
Here is the first fearful part of the woe. There is but one
Saviour for lost sinners even now. There is but one Mediator and
Advocate. He is tender, he is full of compassion; but this very
Being becomes the awful Judge. "The wrath of Him that sit-
teth on the throne," is " the wrath of the Lamb." If it were a
cruel tyrant who sentenced them, there would be less ground for
despair and horror. But it is one whose love is as unquestionable
as his justice. He who left his Father^s glory, who emptied him-
self of Divine fullness, and took upon him the form of a servant,
to die, that sinners might not die eternally, he must love man.
He who wears our nature, must know our frame, and therefore
must be an equitable Judge. And yet such is his truth, his purity,
and his holiness, that from his own mouth proceeds the unuttera-
56 HELL.
bly dreadful doom, " Depart^ ye cursed^ into everlasting Jire^
prepared
for the devil and his angels.^^
O when I think how the sinner will at the last day tremble in
bis presence; and look now at the way in which he slights and
despises him, I am struck with amazement at his present uncon-
cern. Talk to men now about subjection to Christ, they mock at
you as enthusiasts; but O the day will come, when the remem-
brance of a dishonored Christ will cut the heart with bitterest
regret. ' O my madness! ' will the lost soul say, ' Christ was pro-
claimed in my ears; I was invited to come to receive freely from
him salvation. He was a sufficient Redeemer, but now the only
possible Redeemer, is my judge, my scntencer, my condemner for
ever.'
Mark again the punishment as it consists in privation; or,
II. The loss of good.
This is implied in that fearful word depart, — ^' Depart from mc,"
Our Lord frequently thus describes the condition of the lost.
*'Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from
me, ye that work iniquity." So we are told. Psalm v. 5, "The
foolish shall not stand in thy sight; thou hatest all workers of
iniquity."
ow, to understand this, remember that sinners can have noth-
ing, and hope for nothing from a holy God, but through the Lord
Jesus Christ. He is the only channel by which any good, either
for our souls, or our bodies, for time or for eternity can come to
us. But this Mediator has been rejected and despised by those
on whom Ihis sentence is denounced. They would not have
Christ for their Saviour, they would not have spiritual blessings
through him; they would not acknowledge that their worldly good
was given through him. Most justly, then, is all good taken away.
All the good of this world, its riches, honors, and pleasures;
its health and vigor, its cheerfulness and mirth, its ease, independ-
ence, security, and comfort, all, all are then lost. The allevia-
tions ALSO OF THIS woRLD*s EVILS, are thcrc removed. There is
disease from head to foot, but no medicine, no physician, no heal-
ing balm; there is malice, hatred, revenge, wrath and enmity to
the uttermost, but no love and forgiveness, no friend to protect and
comfort; there is shame and contempt without measure, but no
respect, and honor, and approbation.
UELL. 57
All spiritual and heavenly joys are lost. The favor and
love of Almighty God, and all the joys of the light of his counte-*
nance, and the beaming eye of his tenderness which ever delight
the souls of the blessed, — the blissful sight of Christ, and the
abode with him, who feeds his people, and leads them to the
heavenly springs, and by the fountains of living waters, all, all is
lost! ^ They shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from
the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." The
society of the glorious company of the Apostles, the goodly fellow-
ship of the Prophets, the triumph of the noble army of martyrs,
and the glory of the holy Church universal, are for ever lost! O
unconverted sinners! before it be too late, think of that place
where there shall be no light, no joy; think what it will be to see
Abraham^ and haacj and Jacob, and all the Prophets in the king'
dom of Gody and you yourselves thrust out! O to be shut out of
those joyful and happy regions, and shut up with the wicked for
ever! " For without are dogs, and sorceres, and whoremongers,
and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh
a lie." Here is of itself a hell. By their present miserable want
of it, they know too late the value of the blessedness.
All this loss, too, is ascribable to themselves; it is their own
fault. ^ They said unto God, depart from us, and what can the
Almighty do for us? " and voluntarily chose that loss under which
they smart. Suppose a man comes into the possession of a large
estate, with a still richer reversion in reserve; suppose by prodi-
gality and wastefulness, he squanders both away; and suppose,
reduced to the lowest state of wretchedness and want, he beholds
all the estate and reversion in possession of oue whom he despised;
surely he must painfully and remorsefully bewail his folly: — thus
foolish is the unconverted sinner now; and thus will he bewail his
loss of heaven, only with inconceivable aggravation of sorrow
according to the unsearchable greatness of his loss.
Those who once said, as the Gadarenes did to Christ, ^^ Depart
from us:" will not again see the Saviour till they hear him say,
" Depart from me," and all their loss is irreparable; to them " the
midst of darkness is reserved for ever."
3. The suffering of woe.
This is expressed in the word '^fire;^^ the most acute suffering
we know upon earth being that occasioned by fire. The original
expression is emphatically the fire, the everlasting fire: as if all
Vol. IL— 8
58 HEIilj.
other fires were but figures compared with this last great fire of
Divine wrath.
Do we conclude then, that there will be real and material ^re?
there maj, or there may not be; we presume not to decide what
may be the exact nature of that punishment, the sharpness of
which this term represents, but those objections which are some-
times brought against material fire, are not really conclusive. If
it be said, the rich man was in hell immediately on his death, and
fire hurts not disembodied spirits, more is said than can be proved;
fire only now hurts the mind, from the connection which God has
established between the body and the soul; and it may please
him to establish a constitution by which the disembodied spirit
may also suffer there from fire* Tlie body shall also be raised,
and the body and soul of the wicked are to be alike the subjects
of future torment.
It is perfectly clear, however, that it must denote exquisite suf-
fering, even extremity of pain, and that the whole man will thus
suffer. There is a " place" of torment for the body; Judas went
*^ to his own place." There is a " state " of torment for the soul.
And O how unutterable that torment, when, which ever way the
soul look, there is nothing but tribulation and anguish ! If it look
back on the past, it sees time wasted away, opportunity for ever
loat, enjoyment irrecoverably gone, folly irremediably and eter-
nally ruinous. If it looks within and around, fiery flames, unmit-
igated pain, '^ the worm that never dies." If it looks to the future,
O that fearful look, judgment to come, wrath to come, and that
for ever.
The wicked fall into the hands of the living God, and He is said
" to show his wrath, and to make his power known on the vessels
fitted for destruction." O terrible words 1 Sinners, unconverted
sinners, fear above all, fear to fall into the hands of the living
God. Think of his power, it is almighty. Think of his wrath,
it is infinite.
But there is one thing further, that should peculiarly alarm
nominal Christians. There are degrees of punishment in hell,
and there is special aggravation of suffering to the specially wicked;
and those are accounted specially wicked who had Christian
advantages and neglected them. Thus our Lord says, " That ser-
vant which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither
did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes."
HELL. 59
Thus Chorazin, Bcthsaida, and Capernaum enjoyed the light of
the Gospel, but disregarded it, and our Lord says, "It shall be
more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment."
O nominal Christians, flee, we beseech you, from the wrath to
come. You will wish that you had been born a Hottentot or
ew Zealander, or any thing rather than to have had all the
aggravated guilt of neglecting the full privileges of a Christian
land.
IV. The accursed society.
" It is prepared fur the devil and his angels.^^
Here is another tremendous part of the sinner's doom. — It is "/:r3-
pared.'^ For six thousand years those fires have been preparing, and
materials have been gathering together. God has had the disposal of
every brand. IIow Isaiah says, xxx. 33, " Tophet is ordained of
old, yea, for the King, (even the King of Kings,) it is prepared.
He hath made it deep and large, the pile thereof is fire and much
wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth
kindle it."
And then what is the company — devils and evil spirits. Ah ! to
be associated with those cruel, malignant, and hateful beings, who
first tempted, and then will laugh and mock us, taunt us, and
torment us, is indeed woe. To be associated, for ever too, with
liars and murderers, thieves, drunkards, and adulterers! Those
who have forgotten God, may have been disgusted with gross
sinners, and yet now to be for ever joined with the most vile and
abandoned, and linked with them for ever in the one prison of
hell, this is an aggravation of misery that no mind can adequatelj
conceive. The wicked may be pleasant enough to the wicked in
their mirth, but will they like each other as companions for ever
in torment?
V. The perpetual punishment.
The suffering is eternal and unreversible. This God does most
plainly assert: he calls it in our text, " everlasting Jirc.^^ It is also
contrasted with the reward of the righteous. '* These shall go
away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous unto life
eternal.
The strongest terms are repeatedly used on this point. It is
said by our Lord, " If thy hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it
from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than
having two hands to go into hell, where the worm dieth not, and
60 HELL.
the fire is noi quenched," and this is in substance repeated again
and again, so as to have in a few verses six solemn assertions of
the eternal duration of the future punishment. So we find hy
Jude 7, The wicked shall suffer " the vengeance of eternal fire/'
In Revelation xiv. 10, II, we read that he who receives the mark
of the beast, shall ^* drink of the wine of the wrath of God which
is poured out without measure into the cup of his indignation, and
he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, in the presence of
the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb, and the smoke
of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever."
Thus God has expressly declared, that the punishment of the
wicked shall be everlasting. How, then, is that punishment to be
ended? By force? What! overpower Omnipotence? By fraud?
What! outwit infinite wisdom? By exhaustion? Can any thing
be annihilated? What! in contradiction to the Divine will!
But is it not unjust to visit upon a temporary sin an eternal
woe? Ah! do you not even in this world, see men suffer lasting
evils from a momentary sin. If it be necessary for God to threaten,
it is right for God to execute, and the necessity of the threatening
is proved; as even the tremendous penalty does not deter many
from the sin, and though multitudes are warned, and escape the
coming wrath, multitudes still go on in sin notwithstanding every
threatening.
But it may relieve the Christian's doubts of the Divine veracity
on this fearful subject, to remember that our obligations to God
being infinite, life and death being placed before us, and the
wicked voluntarily choosing death, justly merit the awful penalty.
They remain impenitent in hell itself, they go on sinning there,
and if they had lived here for ever, they would have gone on
ginning for ever; God is clear when he judges, and even those
who suffer will be constrained to justify him who condemns them
to eternal woe.
In the vast extent of God's creation, when we look abroad on
the starry firmament, and see worlds upon worlds, what if there
be one region like a prison, where the Just Governor of the whole
universe confines criminals, as a moral lesson to the universe, a
guard against rebellion, and a preservative to obedience? Can
you say that this may not be in infinite wisdom, equity, and love?
But, mainly and chietly, hell is the mirror which displays the
glories of his power, and truth, and justice, and holiness. " Hath
HELL. 61
he said, and shall he not do it?" O risk not eternal rain on the
most improbable of all contingencies, the chance that God may
lie and deceive, or rather on the utter impossibility that he should
do so.
Do you say it is severe? Ah! remember the assertion flies
back. Be not so severe to yourselves, as to rush upon it for vain
pleasures; wrong not, destroy not, your own selves; you are fore-
warned, and yet you hasten to the ruin; it is distinctly laid before
you, and yet you prefer it to self-denial, faith, hope, and love.
The voice of the whole sermon is, " Flee from the wrath to
come." Linger not a moment on the plain. Escape, '' escape
for thy life," lest thou be consumed ; escape to the only city of
refuge, even Christ Jesus.
In applying this, I would add two or three plain directions.
1st. Drbad sin as the worst of all evils. Losses of property
are evils; poverty and contempt are evils; sicknesses in our persons
or families are evils; national calamities are evils; wars and fam-
ines and pestilences are evils; but sin is the worst evil, for it is the
cause of all others; bringing down upon the creature the displea-
sure and wrath of him from whose appointment all suffering
originally comes^ as well as all happiness, and, if having its full
issue, landing the sinner in endless ruin. O sinner, stop in thy
mad course: sin will be thy ruin here and forever, if persisted in.
2d. Repent in time. There is a way of escape; there is
space afforded for a change of mind. ^ Repent and be converted,
that your sins may be blotted out," ere it be too late. You want
a changed mind, consisting in a deep sorrow for sin, a hearty
acknowledgment of it before God, a lively faith in his free pardon
through the blood of Jesus, and then an amended life in righ-
teousness and true holiness. You must be bom again, and God
has promised, if you will inquire of him, to give a new heart and
a new spirit. O can you be content to receive all your good in
this life, and to be miserable for ever; but " except you repent,
you must perish." Turn you then to that Divine Saviour who
gives repentance and remission of sins. Turn you, for why will
you die? This leads me to
Value Christ Jesus supremely as the giver of all you need,
the only refuge, the all-sufficient Saviour of the lost. Are you
yet impenitent and unconverted? O value Christ, as able to give
you repentance, and exalted for this very purpose. He came into
62
the world to be the deliverer from the wrath to come; he jet lives
to make intercession for the transgressors. Apply to him. You
are yet in the land of prayer and hope: you are yet within the
possibility of salvation; it may be, you may yet reach the good
land afar off, and gain everlasting ligbt, and life, and glory; it
shall be, if you do in earnest go to Jesus, with all your sins, and
trust in him.
Are you trusting in Jesus, and converted to God? blessed is
your state ! '^ There is no condemnation to them which are in
Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit."
Christians can say of him, ^* He hath delivered us from the wrath
to come." They can stand on the rock of Divine truth, amidst
all the raging storm of wrath rushing on the ungodly, and be in
perfect security, under ^ the hiding-place from the wind, and the
covert from the tempest. Who shall lay any thing to the charge
of God^s elect?" He who has the keys of death and hell, is their
friend, and none can hurt or annoy. O Christians, may gratitude
to your Redeemer, and tender compassion for perishing sinners,
and persevering endeavors to lead them to your Protector and
Deliverer, bear testimony that you are the redeemed of the Lord,
whom he bath delivered out of the hand of the enemy, and formed
for himself a people to show forth his praise!
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